JERUSALEM (May. 10)
About 280 immigrants from Birobidjan, the “Jewish homeland” in the former Soviet Union, are scheduled to arrive in Israel on Thursday on the Jewish Agency’s first direct flight from Khabarovsk, which is on Russia’s border with Manchuria.
Simcha Dinitz, the chairman of the Jewish Agency, this week called the immigration of Birobidjan Jews a symbol of “Zionism’s victory over communism.”
The so-called autonomous region of Birobidjan, in Siberia, was created by the Stalin regime in 1927 as an alternative to Zionism. It was an effort to keep Soviet Jews interested in remaining in the Soviet Union and the world believing that Jews had a national homeland in that country.
But despite the effort, the Jewish population there never topped 30,000, and the Soviet authorities finally admitted in 1958 that the endeavor was a failure.
The Jewish Agency recently initiated emissary operations in Birobidjan, which has 10,000 Jews; in Novosibirsk, another Siberian city, with 15,000 Jews; in Vladivostok, with about 4,000 Jews; and Mogadan, a former city of internal exile. All are in the Far East, on or near the Pacific coast.
The operations are part of the agency’s plans to expand its aliyah activities in the central and eastern regions of Russia.